One of the many ways to monetize a blog is by accepting sponsored blog posts. In fact, for many blogs out there this is by far the biggest revenue generator.
But sponsored content also has its drawbacks that you need to be aware of. If not managed very well, sponsored content can put your blog at risk of traffic loss.
There are many different types of sponsored digital content, but in this article I am talking about sponsored blog posts. Articles on your blog that are paid for by a company.
Depending on the company, these articles can either be written by them or by yourself.
Sponsored Blog Posts:
8 Things to Keep in Mind with Sponsored Content
Let’s have a closer look at some of the things you need to consider if you wish to go down the route of accepting sponsored content on your website.
1. Don’t Undersell Yourself
You may think that others writing content for you is a huge time saver. After all, someone else is doing all the work right?
Wrong! There is in fact a lot of work required from you, the blogger, when accepting and publishing a sponsored piece. Emails back and forth, discussing topics to write about, negotiating cost, discussing formatting standards, images, editing so that the article conforms to the standards of your blog, publishing the article, promoting on social media, and so much more.
And also, while some brands prefer to write the article themselves, sometimes you are expected to write the article. A product review for example requires a lot of work.
Not only does a brand or business need to pay for increased brand awareness and a backlink from your site, the cost of the sponsored article should also – at least partly – cover your work hours. That’s why it’s important to have a streamlined process in place so that you can keep your own hours to a minimum.
2. Use Standard Operating Procedures
You may have come across the abbreviation SOP before during your blogging career. Or maybe you have a lot of SOP’s for your business in place already.
If you’re not sure what I’m on about, SOP stands for Standard Operating Procedure. The aim of using SOP’s is to improve productivity and to avoid time wasting.
If you want to make sponsored blog posts an important part of your blog monetization business model, it’s highly recommended to implement some form of SOP.
A Standard Operating Procedure for a sponsored blog post should address things like communication lines, formatting standards, size of images, minimum word count and anything else involved in getting a new blog post published.
The clearer the process is for the brand representative you’re working with, the quicker the turnaround. This means less cost for you and ultimately also less cost for the other party. This then means you can maintain competitive rates and brands will also be more likely to work with you again in the future. It’s a win-win situation.
3. Promote Your Blog
There are several ways to attract more sponsored content opportunities, but everything starts with yourself.
Make sure that it is clearly visible on your blog that you are open to sponsored content. Ideally you would have a page dedicated to this topic, instead of briefly mentioning it on your about page.
Some businesses do actually look for bloggers to work with, so if your blog has a well-written page that clearly outlines why brands should work with you, the more chance they will approach you.
Also make sure that this page is easily accessible, ideally from the top menu. This may sound obvious, but so many bloggers forget this and as a consequence that fancy looking work-with-me page is nowhere to be found.
You can also actively reach out to companies. While this can be somewhat intimidating at first, there is absolutely nothing wrong with contacting brands that you think can benefit greatly from a sponsored blog post on your website.
A work-with-me page would also typically have a link to a media kit, so make sure you have an up-to-date, professional-looking media kit ready at all times. A professional media kit with traffic stats, demographics and other useful data will give a company a good idea of your blog’s authority.
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4. Use a Middleman
Another effective way to get more sponsored content jobs is by using a middleman. There are several sponsored content or influencer companies that connect bloggers like you with brands and businesses that are looking for partnerships.
Just keep in mind that when using a middleman, the revenue will obviously be lower. After all, the middleman wants to have a piece of the cake, and rightly so.
5. Be Patient and Grow Your Blog First
Would a company be willing to pay for a sponsored post on your blog if it hardly gets any traffic or if your social media engagement is minimal? Probably not.
A company needs to get a good ROI out of a partnership with your blog. So before looking into sponsored content opportunities, it’s best to make sure that your blog has achieved some level of authority.
While some companies have requirements in place regarding traffic and social media followers, there are no set-in-stone thresholds. Some blogs focus on social media, other blogs focus on organic traffic. To increase your chances in being successful, it’s recommended to focus on the total package.
If you’re an Instagram guru and you have lots of engaged followers, by all means, use that in your pitch. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect your SEO and content strategy efforts.
Similarly, if you’re good at SEO and your organic traffic is going through the roof, but your social media presence is non-existent, it’s less likely brands will want to work with you.
Long story short, while it may be tempting to jump into the sponsored-content game sooner rather than later, it’s always best to make sure your blog has a solid foundation. In social media as well as in the search engine results pages.
6. Choose Wisely
It’s important to choose brands and companies wisely and don’t just go for the dollars. A sponsored blog post needs to align well with the niche your blog is in.
This is important for your readers (who trust you) but also for the search engines. For example, if your blog is about traveling in Europe, a sponsored blog post about kitchen equipment is not going to be a very good fit.
Your readers won’t appreciate it and the search engines won’t be able to make much sense of it either.
If you’re based in the US, your blog needs to respect the rules of the FTC, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. As such, you will need to disclose that the blog post is a paid piece of content and also who is paying you.
But even if you’re not US-based, it’s still common practice to let your readers know that a sponsored blog post is exactly that, a blog post for which you have received financial compensation.
Check out these simple steps to add a disclosure to your blog posts.
8. Nofollow Links
In a perfect world a sponsored blog post should only contain Nofollow backlinks. The reason behind this is that it’s against Google’s guidelines to sell links, which is kind of what you would be doing when you’re selling a sponsored content piece on your blog.
Reality is though that a lot of brands are purchasing sponsored content partly because they want that outbound link.
It also depends on your blog. If you have a large and loyal readership with very active and influential social media accounts, then a brand would aim for exposure. In that case, the backlink itself is not that important.
However, if your blog mainly attracts organic traffic and your social media presence is low-key, that backlink is suddenly much more important.
Update September 2019: Introduction of the “sponsored” attribute:
Google has announced two new link attributes to identify outbound links that are sponsored (paid) or user-generated.
This basically means that a sponsored link can now be marked as “sponsored”, instead of “nofollow”. Note that this is not a hard requirement, so using “nofollow” is still fine.